“One person, on doing well by others, immediately accounts the expected favor in return. Another is not so quick, but still considers the person a debtor and knows the favor. A third kind of person acts as if not conscious of the deed, rather like a vine producing a cluster of grapes without making further demands, like a horse after its race, or a dog after its walk, or a bee after making its honey. Such a person, having done a good deed, won’t go shouting from rooftops but simply moves on to the next deed just like the vine produces another bunch of grapes in the right season.”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 5.6
I have to confess that I’m not really understanding Ryan Holiday’s interpretation of today’s quote in The Daily Stoic. Not the first part at least, where he goes on about people copying you or taking credit for your good ideas. Honestly I’m not even understanding where he gets the connection to leaders at all, since the quote doesn’t mention it. Perhaps he knows the context and surrounding text better than I do.
At any rate, I’m going to strike out on my own and share my own interpretation here today, with a bit of a nod to what Holiday mentions at the end. I’m going to connect it to stoics in general, not just leaders. Here goes.
A stoic doesn’t need credit, and they don’t need acclaim, and they don’t need recognition. When they do the right thing, they do it just because. Because it’s the right thing, and because it needs doing, and because that’s what they should do.
They innately know it’s the right thing to do, and they don’t question it or expect huge kudos just for doing it. When something is naturally and obvious good, then you just do it without attachment to the fruit of the action. Indian philosophers call this Nishkam Karma, or “duty for duty’s sake”.
Stoics don’t do good deeds or favors expecting something in return. They do it because their soul and their constant practice tells them it’s the right thing, because it’s their duty. Holiday calls this “thankless service”.
Stoics do good because they can’t do anything else. Just because.